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Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft, has been suspended for 25 games for violating the NBA-NBPA’s anti-drug policy with a positive test for a diuretic, the league announced Thursday night.

The National Basketball Players Association plans to file arbitration papers immediately on behalf of Ayton, believing that there will be a case to have the penalty reduced or rescinded based on a collective bargaining agreement provision of “unintentional ingestion,” league sources told ESPN.

Diuretics are banned because they can mask performance-enhancing drug use. Sources with knowledge of Ayton’s testing told ESPN that follow-up testing on him showed no traces of any other banned substances.


How do the Suns get on track after Deandre Ayton Jersey China‘s suspension?

Fantasy NBA Daily Notes: Dealing with Ayton, Bagley absences
The NBPA has the ability to expedite two cases a year with the league, and sources say it’s likely the union will use one of them on Ayton to try to get him back on the court as soon possible.

The timing is terrible for the Suns, who beat Sacramento on opening night Wednesday behind 18 points, 11 rebounds and 4 blocks by Ayton.

Ayton would lose $2.17 million over a 25-game suspension.

“I want to apologize to my family, the entire Suns organization, my teammates, partners, our fans and the Phoenix Suns Jerseys China community,” Ayton said in a statement. “This was an unintentional mistake and unfortunately I put something in my body that I was completely unaware of.

“I do understand the unfortunate impact that this has on so many others, and for that I am deeply sorry. I’m extremely disappointed that I’ve let my team down.

“I will continue to work with the NBPA to go through arbitration and am hopeful of a positive resolution.”

The team also issued a statement.

“On behalf of the Phoenix Suns organization, (coach) Monty Williams and I are disappointed in the actions by Deandre Ayton that led to his testing positive for a banned diuretic and subsequent suspension by the NBA. This does not uphold the standards and principles we have set for the team,” Suns general manager James Jones said.

“Deandre has expressed his deepest remorse. While he is suspended we remain committed to his growth and development on and off the court. His actions are not taken lightly, and we are committed to ensuring that Deandre understands the profound impact it has had on the team, organization, and Suns community.”

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HOUSTON — James Harden blamed himself more than he credited the Milwaukee Bucks’ execution of their unique defensive scheme for his struggles to score in the Houston Rockets’ 117-111 season-opening loss Thursday night.

Harden, the NBA’s scoring champion in each of the last two seasons, finished with only 19 points on 2-of-13 shooting. He didn’t have a field goal in the second half, when he was held to four free throws and the Bucks rallied from a 16-point deficit to win at the Toyota Center.

“Give them credit, they came back and played well in that second half, but this one is on me,” said Harden, who had 14 assists and seven turnovers. “I wasn’t aggressive enough, and that’s what it was.”

The Bucks firmly believe that their defense had a lot to do with Harden’s problems. As they did in their two wins over the Rockets last season, Milwaukee had Harden’s primary defender shade his strong hand so heavily that their feet faced Harden’s left hip, making it difficult for him to launch his lethal step-back jumper and funneling him into traffic, where shot-blockers Brook Lopez Jersey China and Giannis Antetokounmpo Jersey China usually awaited.

Wesley Matthews, right, and his Bucks teammates kept the pressure on Houston’s James Harden Jersey China all night Thursday. Harden scored just 19 points as the Rockets lost their season opener. Tim Warner/Getty Images
“He’s such a great player, you have to kind of think, ‘Can we do something a little unconventional, something a little different?'” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “He’s seen everything. He’s seen us a couple of times last year. I thought in the second half the discipline was better.”

Harden had 15 points in the first half despite not getting his first field goal until 2:06 remained in the second quarter. He was 10-of-10 from the free throw line by halftime.

Harden missed all seven of his shots from the floor in the second half — including six 3-pointers — and didn’t score until a trip to the free throw line with 1:26 remaining.

“I trust the philosophy that the coaches had, and it worked out,” said Bucks shooting guard Wesley Matthews Jersey China, who was the primary defender on Harden for much of the game in his Milwaukee debut. “This is a different kind of situation for me. I felt like [in previous seasons] that I had to make the stop, I had to get the stop. That’s not the case with this team. We’ve got a team full of defenders with length and activity. It’s truly a team defense. That’s a credit to everybody in this room.”


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Harden insisted that the Bucks’ scheme wasn’t a factor in him attempting fewer field goals than he did in any game last season, when his scoring average of 36.1 points per game was the highest by any NBA player in three decades.

“It’s me,” said Harden, who averaged 32.5 points but shot only 39.3 percent from the floor in the Rockets’ two losses to the Bucks last season. “I can get any shot I want to. … It’s the first game of the season, so I’ve got to get my rhythm as well. I wish I would just go out there and make every shot and have my swagger like I will be. It’ll come.”

Antetokounmpo, the reigning MVP, offered a dissenting view from the visitors locker room on how the Bucks affected Harden, who Antetokounmpo called “one of the best offensive players today in our league.”

“We just tried to make him drive the ball and make him make the pass,” said Antetokounmpo, who had 30 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists before fouling out with 5:18 remaining in the game. “The less shots he takes, the better for us. I think guys like Eric Bledsoe Jersey China, George Hill Jersey China, Wes did a great job, not just send him to Brook, send him inside, send him to the crowd. [Harden] had a tough night and, hey, guys like that, you know, they’re going to get 20 shots up. But we gotta just try to make it as tough as possible and make his teammates make a play, not him.”

Rockets sixth man Eric Gordon Jersey China, in particular, failed to make the Bucks pay for their defensive game plan. Gordon went 4-of-19 from the floor and 3-of-12 from 3-point range, missing several good looks generated by Harden’s passes after penetrating.

“The way they play, the rest of the guys have got to step up,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “That’s their game plan. Now, I think James will during the season be more ready to do it, but they just collapsed on James. He was finding people — had 14 assists and would have had about 20 if we hit our shots. They chose to play that way, and it worked out for them.”

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Jimmy Butler’s debut with the Miami Heat Jerseys China has been put off for a few more games.

Butler’s girlfriend gave birth to the couple’s child Wednesday night, coach Erik Spoelstra said, so the Heat’s high-profile offseason addition will not travel with the team on its two-game road trip to play the Milwaukee Bucks Jerseys China on Saturday and the Minnesota Timberwolves Jerseys China on Sunday.

Jimmy Butler Jersey China is now a proud father to a baby daughter,” Spoelstra announced Friday. “We’re thrilled for him, and we’re really excited.”

Butler, 30, missed the Heat’s home opener against the Memphis Grizzlies Jerseys China on Wednesday to be there for the child’s birth. He was present in the morning for the game-day shootaround, then told the team around midafternoon that he wasn’t going to be able to play.

Spoelstra assured reporters that “everything’s fine” and said there was no reason for concern.

The four-time All-Star was a big offseason acquisition for the Heat this past summer, agreeing to a four-year, $142 million deal in a sign-and-trade with the Philadelphia 76ers Jerseys China.

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SAN FRANCISCO — The Golden State Warriors officially moved into their dream home Thursday night and then proceeded to live out a nightmare in an embarrassing 141-122 loss to the LA Clippers in the first regular-season game at Chase Center.

After watching his team get run up and down the floor all night, Warriors coach Steve Kerr didn’t mince words about where his young group stood as the new season began.

“This is not a one-off, this is the reality,” Kerr said. “There’s going to be nights like this this year. You’ve got to play through it, you’ve got to keep fighting and keep getting better. That’s the plan.”

The Warriors came into the season with nine players 23 years old or younger on their roster. They knew there were going to be bad nights, and they knew there were going to be teaching moments throughout another 82-game campaign.

But reality hit fast Thursday night as the Clippers raced around against a Warriors organization that has been to five consecutive NBA Finals.

“It doesn’t feel very good,” Kerr said. “Losing stinks. It’s no fun. This is more the reality of the NBA. … The last five years we’ve been living in a world that isn’t supposed to exist. Five years of, if I remember, the best record anybody’s ever had over five years. So this is reality, nine guys 23 or younger, and we’re starting over in many respects.”

On a night full of issues, the one that stood out most to Warriors players and coaches was the group’s inability to get defensive stops. The Clippers shot 62.5% from the field and were 18-for-32 from beyond the arc.

“We f—ing sucked,” Warriors forward Draymond Green Jersey China said. “And we gotta get better. I’m not a coach, so I’m not about to go watch a film and say, ‘Oh, well we can build on this.’ I really don’t give a damn about what we can build on. We sucked tonight, and we gotta get better overall. And that’s just what it is.”

Both Kerr and Green noted throughout the preseason that they were concerned about how the Warriors were performing on the defensive end, and those fears manifested on the floor Thursday night.

The drop-off in talent was on full display as the Warriors entered the season without injured All-Star swingman Klay Thompson Jersey China, who still is recovering from a torn ACL. They also played without Kevin Durant Jersey China, who signed with the Brooklyn Nets Jerseys China last summer, and veteran stalwarts Andre Iguodala Jersey China and Shaun Livingston Jersey China. At times, some of the Warriors’ young players looked lost on the floor.

“The easy answer is it’s one of 82, but there is some glaring things that we need to correct if we’re going to win basketball games consistently,” Warriors superstar Stephen Curry Jersey China said when asked for his assessment of the game. “Credit the Clippers. They came off a pretty intense, hard-fought battle in L.A. in game one, so they were battle-tested in terms of being in that situation. They started the first six minutes with that same intensity.”

The Warriors crowd also started the night with intensity as fans filled the seats inside the team’s billion-dollar palace. Before the game began, Thompson delivered a speech, singling out Warriors owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber for their “vision” in getting the new arena built.

Once the contest began, things went downhill quickly. Green injured his right forearm less than three minutes in, after colliding with Clippers guard Patrick Beverley Jersey China. Green was in a considerable amount of pain and went to the locker room to get checked out, returning at the beginning of the second quarter with what the Warriors said was an elbow contusion.

Green wore a compression sleeve on his arm after the game, acknowledging that the injury was “really sore,” but he did not sound concerned about missing time.

Warriors center Kevon Looney returned to the starting lineup after missing almost all of training camp because of a right hamstring injury. After playing just 10 minutes, Looney did not return to the game in the second half after tweaking the same hamstring. His status for Sunday’s game at the Oklahoma City Thunder Jerseys China is unclear.

The Clippers enjoyed playing the role of spoiler on the Warriors’ opening night.

“We wanted to kind of beat them down,” Beverley said. “Beat them down, beat them down, beat them down to the point that, it was me, Mo [Maurice Harkless Jersey China], of course Kawhi Leonard Jersey China, [Landry Shamet Jersey China] did a helluva job. We just kept putting bodies on them trying to make it as tough as possible.”

The Warriors’ misery continued off the floor as well, after TNT analyst Charles Barkley noted during a halftime discussion that he wanted to change his prediction that the Warriors would make the playoffs.

“I was wrong before the game,” Barkley said. “I said they were going to be the 7-, 8-seed. They’re not going to make the playoffs, because they just can’t score enough.”

Thompson, who was a guest on set at the time, defended his team.

“Chuck has the right to be a little pessimistic,” Thompson said. “But I think these young guys are going to step up, man.”

Green didn’t pay Barkley’s comment much attention either.

“I don’t really listen to anything that he says,” Green said.

After being knocked out by the Warriors in last season’s playoffs, the Clippers added Leonard and Paul George Jersey China to a core that already had established a winning culture.

When asked about how the Clippers ruined the Warriors’ opening night, Leonard replied matter-of-factly, “I mean, that’s our job.”

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CJ McCollum Jersey China has doubled down on the Portland Trail Blazers Jerseys China‘ expectations for this season, leveling a championship-or-bust mantra after an offseason of unprecedented player movement within the rest of the NBA.

McCollum, in an essay published by The Players’ Tribune, set NBA title expectations for the Blazers in a Western Conference he calls “ours for the taking.”

“Our goal is to win a championship,” McCollum says. “Not to build toward it, but to make it to the NBA Finals, and win the whole thing. We’ve put the work in. We know what it takes, and we know what we have.”


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McCollum and the Blazers enter the season with an overhauled roster.

Three of their starters from the 2019 playoff run are gone, leaving McCollum and Damian Lillard Jersey China as the two holdovers. The Blazers also dealt forward Maurice Harkless Jersey China as part of a four-team trade that brought center Hassan Whiteside Jersey China to Portland. And they added wing Kent Bazemore Jersey China via trade and signed veteran free agents Pau Gasol Jersey China, Mario Hezonja Jersey China and Anthony Tolliver Jersey China.

“I think that in past years, we might have been a little hesitant to say that we’re trying to win a championship,” McCollum wrote in the essay. “We’ve always had that mindset, but we’ve never been very vocal about it. I guess it’s because outside of Portland and in the media, people haven’t put us in that conversation. So it’s like … nobody had given us permission.

“Well, I can tell you right now that we don’t need permission.”

Despite being an underdog to beat Oklahoma City in the opening round of last season’s playoffs, Portland knocked off the Thunder in five games on Lillard’s series-winning 3-pointer. The Blazers then went on to beat the Nuggets, winning Game 7 in Denver, before being swept by the Golden State Warriors Jerseys China in the conference finals.

McCollum’s confidence is bolstered by a three-year, $100 million contract extension he agreed to in July, extending his current deal to five years and $157 million. The new deal will start with the 2021-22 season. The Blazers also signed Lillard to a four-year, $196 million extension this summer, keeping him under contract through the 2025 season.

“We have the right team, the right coach, the right mindset … and the right fans,” McCollum said. “We’ve got it all.

“Now all we need to do is finish the job.”

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DALLAS — Washington Wizards Jerseys China star Bradley Beal got sick of seeing Dallas Mavericks Jerseys China star Luka Doncic Jersey China score with ease Wednesday night and decided to do something about it.

Beal made it his mission to get physical with Doncic in the fourth quarter. That resulted in several chippy exchanges between the stars, who talked trash and repeatedly bumped and shoved each other, eventually leading to double technical fouls with 1:09 remaining and Beal’s ejection when he dismissed that call with a wave.

However, there were no hard feelings between Doncic and Beal after the Mavs’ season-opening 108-100 win at the American Airlines Center. They instead swapped postgame compliments via the media.

“That was great. That’s what basketball is about,” said Doncic, 20, whose 34 points were one shy of his career high and the most ever by a player younger than 21 in a season opener, according to ESPN Stats & Information. “You don’t have no friends on the court. I respect him for doing that. Everybody’s saying he’s only a fancy player. No, he showed he’s great on defense, too. He showed that there, so I respect it for him.”

Beal, who had 19 points and nine assists but was only 7-of-25 from the floor and 1-of-11 from 3-point range, exchanged hugs and pleasantries with Doncic before leaving the court after his ejection.

“It was just hoops,” Beal said. “You could see when I got kicked out, he came up and was the first one to dap me, so he understood what it was. We weren’t fighting. It was just basketball, trying to frustrate him. He was kicking our butts, so you’ve got to do something.”

Doncic, last season’s Rookie of the Year, dominated the first three quarters to carry the Mavs to a 23-point lead. He had 32 points in 28 minutes by the end of the third quarter, hitting 12 of 18 shots from the floor, swishing half of his eight 3-point attempts and driving into the lane for the rest of his buckets.

With Beal harassing him with the help of occasional double-teams, Doncic managed to attempt only one shot from the floor in the fourth quarter. His two points in the final quarter came on free throws after Beal had been ejected.

“He had it going all night,” Beal said. “He’s a tough guard. He’s a physical guy. He can get any shot pretty much that he wants, and I think we let him get a little bit too comfortable. Granted, he was able to draw fouls in that aspect, but I think it was still a lot of 3s he got, a lot of straight-line drives. I just wanted to frustrated him a little bit.”

Beal praised Doncic for being “very mature for his age” and joked that Doncic has “been a pro since he was 10 probably,” a reference to the Mavs star’s four seasons of experience with Real Madrid’s top club in Liga ACB and the EuroLeague before entering the NBA.

Doncic, the youngest MVP in EuroLeague history in his last season with Real Madrid, also referenced that experience when making the point that he’s accustomed to being defended physically.

“I got used to it last year — and the year before and the year before,” Doncic said. “I’m used to it.”

Although Beal had no postgame issues with Doncic, he wasn’t pleased with his ejection by referee Jonathan Sterling. Beal didn’t argue on the court, but he said he planned to discuss it with the NBA office Thursday in hopes of getting the second technical foul rescinded.

“His first technical foul was as a result of a double technical foul for a physical taunt with the opponent, Doncic,” crew chief Ken Mauer told a pool reporter. “They both came together, bumped each other, so my partner calls a double technical foul. Then, Bradley Beal Jersey China then proceeds to look at that official, and in protest of that call, he waves him off, which is a respect for the game guideline and a technical foul, an automatic technical foul. We’re taught to give a technical foul, so that was his second technical foul. So, it’s the double technical foul for the taunt, second one for the wave off to the referee.”

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The Cleveland Cavaliers Jerseys China and forward Cedi Osman Jersey China have agreed to a four-year, $30.8 million contract extension, sources told ESPN.

The Lowe Post
Zach talks to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst about all those contract extensions (20:52), trade targets, and the start of the season. Mina Kimes joins to discuss the Sixers, dog people versus cat people, and much more (45:03). Listen now!

The contract will start next season at $8.75 million and descend in value with the final season in 2023-24 non-guaranteed.

A former second-round pick, Osman is in the final season of a three-year, $8 million deal. He would’ve been a restricted free agent next summer.

He averaged 13 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists last season as the team’s starting small forward.

The New York Times first reported the agreement.

HOUSTON — A group of 30 fans at the Houston Rockets Jerseys China‘ season opener against Milwaukee held signs and wore shirts in support of anti-government protesters in Hong Kong on Thursday night.

Houston general manager Daryl Morey angered the Chinese government with a since-deleted tweet in support of the protesters earlier this month.

Tuesday’s opening-night games were not televised in China in the wake of Morey’s tweet that caused tension between the NBA and Chinese officials.

Many in the group wore black T-shirts with white letters that read: “Fight for Freedom.”

Protesters hold signs during the Houston Rockets home opener against the Milwaukee Bucks at Toyota Center. Tim Warner/Getty Images
Some of the group was from Houston’s Vietnamese community, but it also included people from Hong Kong.

Chris Wong, who was born in Hong Kong and moved to Houston 10 years ago, said he joined the group to support freedom of speech.

“The NBA and American corporations are facing the issue of free speech,” he said. “They have to ask themselves how much freedom are they willing to give in exchange for the access to the market in China? That’s why we want to send this message to everyone.”

One man held a sign the read: “Thank you Morey,” with a red heart after Morey’s name. Another sign read: “No censorship in America” and a third declared: “Freedom is not FREE.” Another man held a sign that said: “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong,” which are the exact words included in Morey’s tweet.

Tram Ho helped organize the group and said the reason for putting it together was simple.

“We wanted to support the pro-Democracy movement in Hong Kong,” she said. “The NBA’s Morey … tweeted a benign tweet to support the (movement and) the Chinese government overreacted and tried to censor us and that’s not right. So that brought me the idea that we would support … the pro-democratic movement.”

Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta quickly rebuked his GM after his tweet with a tweet saying that Morey does not speak for the team, but the damage was done. The Chinese Basketball Association, headed by former Rockets star Yao Ming Jersey China, suspended its ties to the Rockets over the tweet. Events in China promoting a Lakers-Nets series were also canceled.

The Sacramento Kings Jerseys China say second-year forward Marvin Bagley III Jersey China will miss four to six weeks with a nondisplaced fracture of his right thumb.

According to the team, Bagley suffered the injury in Wednesday’s season-opening loss to the Suns. He started and played 28 minutes, scoring 14 points. An MRI determined the extent of the injury.

Bagley, the former Duke star, averaged 14.9 points and 7.6 rebounds last season. The second overall pick in the 2018 draft, he finished seventh in NBA Rookie of the Year voting.

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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — The Los Angeles Lakers Jerseys China won’t rely exclusively on LeBron James at point guard this season. Rajon Rondo Jersey China is a strong option for the No. 1 spot, too.

“I’ve given it a lot of thought, and I think he’ll be in the starting lineup a lot,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said after practice Thursday, referring to Rondo. “I definitely envision a lot of games where he’ll be the starting point guard.”


Just how much “a lot” means is still being figured out. Vogel told ESPN later Thursday that it could be as little as 10 games. The intention is to find matchups that make sense for Rondo as the starter that, in turn, will take some of the load off of James.

Rondo missed the Lakers’ season-opening loss to the LA Clippers Jerseys China, sitting out with a sore calf, and the offense sputtered. The Lakers shot 43.5 percent from the floor and had 14 turnovers against 20 assists.

James started as the de facto point guard, flanked by two off-ball guards in Avery Bradley Jersey China and Danny Green Jersey China, along with Anthony Davis Jersey China and JaVale McGee Jersey China in the frontcourt.


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Vogel: AD’s post game ‘a problem’ for rest of NBA
Rondo, who said he first experienced discomfort in his calf the day before the Lakers’ preseason finale in Golden State, went through Thursday’s practice at “full speed” and “didn’t look impaired at all,” according to Vogel, but his availability for Friday’s game against the Utah Jazz Jerseys China is to be determined.

“He looked really good,” Vogel said. “He looked fresher than everybody else. A little bounce in his step, which is good. But, you know, it’s not how he feels today, it’s how he feels after today’s workload. Right? So we’ll see how he responds to what he’s doing today and make that decision tomorrow.”

Bradley impressed the coaching staff with his fit with the starting unit, sources told ESPN, in the Lakers’ dominant 126-93 preseason win over the Warriors on Oct. 16, scoring 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting. With Rondo injured, the natural choice was to go back to that group for the opener, sources said.

James finished with 18 points on 7-for-19 shooting, 10 rebounds and 8 assists against the Clippers, but he shot just 1-for-4 in the fourth quarter and committed three of his six turnovers in the final frame.

James spent much of the night targeting Davis in the post — something that worked for the offense, to be sure — but became less effective as the game wore on.

“I think if there’s one thing that stands out, is when they started bringing soft help in the post, we didn’t respond to that well enough in terms of our spacing,” Vogel said. “There’s simple counters, and if they’re going to sit in AD’s lap, with the shooters that we have out there, we should be shooting open 3s, if we’re spaced appropriately in those situations.”

After LeBron James Jersey China, left, started at point guard for the Lakers in their season opener, coach Frank Vogel said Thursday that Rajon Rondo will take over the spot for the majority of the time. AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
Rondo, entering his 13th season, averaged 9.2 points on 40.5% shooting (35.9% from 3) with 8.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds last season, his first with the Lakers. He said that a starting role isn’t something he is pushing for, necessarily.

“My preference is what coach Vogel wants me to do,” he said. “I’ll be cool with that.”

Vogel said there still could be games where Rondo comes off the bench and Bradley starts, depending on matchups.

Should Rondo start Friday, his matchup will be Utah point guard Mike Conley Jersey China, who is coming off a 1-for-16 shooting night in the Jazz season opener. “It’s the worst thing that could’ve happened,” James said, referring to Conley’s motivation level heading into the Lakers game.

Rondo, a career 31.5 percent shooter from 3, all but admitted he isn’t the typical guard that’s been paired with James in his career, but he said he feels like he can ignite James in fast-break situations and also keep the offense flowing.

“The league is big on analytics now, so I don’t know what the statistics are when LeBron and I are on the court at the same time, but that’s last year’s stats,” Rondo said. “This year is obviously a different team, different feel. So we’ll see how it goes. You can’t predetermine anything. You got to see how the game flows and go from there.”

Has he improved his 3-points shooting in the offseason?

“I’m always going to play my game,” Rondo said. “I think me at point is a pretty good [option]. I’ve been pretty good in my career with me at point, as well. So, like I said, it’s all about sacrifice and figuring out what’s best for our team.”

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NEW YORK — Kyrie Irving oozed swagger when he walked onto the court during the starting lineup announcement on Wednesday. After all, Irving viewed this — the Nets’ regular season opener — as a sort of homecoming. To mark the occasion, Irving dazzled offensively and broke four records.

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The guard finished with 50 points. When he hit 32 points, he had set a new record for most points scored in a Nets’ debut. The previous record was 30. When he hit 48 points, he set a new record for points scored in an NBA debut for any team. The previous record of 47 points was set by Kiki Vandeweghe in 1984.

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Then he hit 50. There had only been six 50-point games in Nets’ franchise history and the last one was recorded in 2012 by Deron Williams. The last player with a 50-point opener was Anthony Davis and before Davis, Michael Jordan.
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Frank Vogel admitted that Kawhi Leonard and the LA Clippers disrupted “everything” in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 112-102 loss on opening night. But in straying from their intended pick-and-roll-heavy offense because of the Clippers’ switching schemes, Vogel believes the Lakers happened upon an effective alternative.

“The first positive is our post offense is a problem for other teams,” Vogel said Wednesday when asked to share a hopeful tidbit gleaned from the Lakers’ film session.

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The Lakers’ post offense was far more effective than any pick-based possession. It wasn’t close, really. In 30 pick plays, L.A. averaged 0.56 points per possession, well below the 2018-19 NBA average of 0.97 points on those plays, according to Second Spectrum.


Why Clippers-Lakers felt bigger than just one game
However, the Lakers’ 27 post-up plays worked out to the tune of 1.17 points per possession, which would have been the best rate in the league last season if L.A. had carried it all season, per Second Spectrum.

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Chief among the post-up targets was Anthony Davis, who posted up 22 times in his Lakers debut, according to Second Spectrum, the second-most he has posted up in a game in the past seven seasons, which is as far back as the data go.

“They couldn’t stop him,” Vogel said of Davis on the block. “So whatever works, you go to it again, and we just kept going to him.”

When the pick-and-roll gets blown up like it did Tuesday, Vogel says there are other counters L.A. can use beyond simply riding Davis.

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“We can pass and cut a lot more than we did,” he said. “We can run a lot more than we did.”

Vogel also said that when the Lakers do post up, they can space the floor around the man with the ball much better.

There are no plans to abandon the pick-and-roll. Instead, Rajon Rondo, who missed opening night with a sore calf, will be in the mix running screen-roll action in the future.

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“I envision Rajon Rondo being a major player for us this year — 25-30 minutes a game guy, whether he starts or comes off the bench,” Vogel said, adding that Rondo remains day-to-day ahead of Friday’s game against the Utah Jazz.

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Rondo, 33, averaged 9.2 points on 40.5% shooting (35.9% from 3) with 8.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds last season, his first with the Lakers. However, he had a real plus-minus of negative 3.56 points per 100 possessions, meaning that over the course of the season, L.A. seemed to lose ground when he was in the lineup.

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Vogel gave Rondo’s minutes exclusively to Quinn Cook in the opener. Cook finished with four points on 2-for-7 shooting, two assists and one turnover in 17 minutes. He missed two key 3-pointers in the fourth quarter while L.A. was trying to keep pace with the Clippers. He too was dealing with a sore calf muscle, which limited his role.
Alex Caruso, who is expected to get a look in Vogel’s backcourt rotation, was available to play coming off a bruised pelvic bone in the preseason, but Vogel kept him on the bench.

All of those circumstances led to LeBron James playing 36 minutes at point guard, and he struggled down the stretch, shooting just 1-for-4 in the fourth quarter with three turnovers.

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James’ workload is another area in which Rondo figures to be a factor.

“I think when Rajon comes back, we’ll have the mindset that he can quarterback the offense with anybody that’s out there,” Vogel said.

The Lakers will apply the lessons learned from the loss to the Clippers.

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“I think getting Rajon Rondo back will put us in a lot more pick-and-rolls, but our post offense was something [the Clippers] had to deal with,” Vogel said. “We were heavier in the post than maybe we will be throughout the season because of it being effective for us, but we continue to make sure we have a diverse package out there.”

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Kyrie Irving goes up for a layup Wednesday in his regular-season debut with the Brooklyn Nets. Irving scored 50 points in an overtime loss to the Timberwolves. Emilee Chinn/Getty Images
But it wasn’t a hiccup-less inaugural Nets game for Irving. Brooklyn fell to the Minnesota Timberwolves 127-126 in overtime. Mid-game doldrums came in the form of turnovers and missed free throws.

Even as the Nets began to spiral towards a 0-1 record, Irving got a warm reception from fans. Irving was introduced last in the starting lineup — a basketball honor reserved for a team’s long tenured star. He has been given a corner locker in the Nets’ locker room — another league-wide symbol of stature.

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The Barclays Center crowd erupted when Irving sank his first basket. Every time he charged towards the basket after that, fans would let out an audible “ooh” or gasp. Irving appeared determined to dazzle, throwing somewhat haphazard and unnecessary behind-the-back passes minutes into the first quarter.